Rib Belly Prep

IMG_3779A short basic cure (3 days, I think) with kosher salt, pink salt, sugar, fennel seed, crushed coriander, pepper flakes, ground black pepper, and fresh thyme; then perhaps a run through the cold smoke followed by a slow cook, cool, and a finish on the grill for a cookout on Saturday.

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Learning from Aaron Franklin


My last brisket. Coffee-rubbed, hickory-smoked. Sauce with drippings and smoked onions.

I just finished reading Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, and I’m pretty excited to put some new information to work at home (well, old information/technique, but some ideas that are new to me). I’ve really only made a handful of briskets ever. Some of have been better than others, sure, but each has been good enough to justify making another one. I’ve largely done a few hours of indirect hickory smoke on an old Weber kettle grill, then used the “Texas crutch” of foil to wrap and finish in the oven. I’ve got no qualms about that, but I do have some modifications planned for my technique on the next one, going back to basics to make a better brisket.

I’m not the first to rave about Franklin’s book (or his barbecue joint in Austin), but I’ve been soaking it up recently. His PBS series BBQ with Franklin (and the YouTube series before that) are terrific, hugely informative on all topics related to cooking meat with fire and smoke. So I’ve done a bit of binge watching.

My takeaways from the book and video series:

1) Rub. I’ll probably simplify my rub for longer cooks, consider eliminating or reducing the sugar. I do like the coffee rub, so I’ll keep that on hand. (That idea came from a Josh Ozersky column in the Wall Street Journal in May 2013 called “The New Barbecue” about several non-traditionalists making excellent barbecue in Texas). But I may also try the purist Central Texas rub of salt and pepper that Franklin uses as well.

2) Temperature range. I was concerned on this last brisket that I had trouble keeping the temp under 250, but Franklin recommends about 275 for his, enough for good bark formation and rendering of fat. Granted, there are more hot spots in my small grill, and it’s not as consistent as I’d like it to be, but until I get a separate firebox…

3) Smoke. Franklin talks quite a bit about good clean smoke and bad smoke. Much of that is related to the completeness of combustion and availability of oxygen for the fire. The stuff you really want is clean smoke. I’ve got some reengineering to do with my setup, since a really hot fire will produce the smoke I want, but at temperatures that are too high for me to use in a simple Weber kettle. Until I get/modify/make a larger smoker, I may have to deal with smoldering with chips. More thinking to do on this.

4) Metal shop work. I don’t have any of this experience, and I wish I did. Low tech firebox connected to a cook chamber large enough for a brisket and a few racks of ribs, chimney. I think I could do this, but will need to talk to a few friends for help.

This book is really a deep dive into the fundamentals of wood and fire, components of fuel, smoke, and the chemistry of combustion, combined with the anatomy of muscle structure (the muscle fibers and connective tissue that make up something like a brisket), which all adds up to how to cook better barbecue. I love this kind of book. It’s smart, clear, and informative. If you haven’t dropped any Father’s Day hints yet, get this one onto your short list, or pick it up for yourself because it’s summer, and there’s a lot of cooking to do.

franklin barbecue cover jpg

Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto from Penguin Random House / Ten- Speed Press. Available wherever you buy books.

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Juniper Infusion Experiment #2

 Not quite sure what to call this. It could be considered “gin bitters,” although there aren’t any bittering agents included. But it’s an infusion of berries and spices in 100mL of vodka, and I think I might use it in the same way as I would use bitters. How do you get the piney juniper, coriander, and citrus essence of a nice gin into concentrated form? We’re going to find out.

I’ve had bitters on the mind recently. Grapefruit bitters are in the works here in the basement, after a successful batch of a basic orange “house bitters” that I made, adapted from a recipe in Brad Thomas Parsons’s book. The idea for this infusion came out of thinking about how to get juniper into a vodka and tonic without actually using gin, combined with the fact that sometimes I simply like to drink tonic and bitters together. So what if you spiked the bitters with juniper?…

I threw in some dried citrus peel (lemon and grapefruit in this batch), coriander seed, clove, caraway, and two dried cherries. Curious to taste how it turns out.

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Post St. Patrick’s Day Hash

This is one of my favorite breakfasts of the year. There’s nothing complicated about it, and it’s easily made from the leftovers from your St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage. It’s reason enough to make more brisket than you think you’ll need for dinner. I like including some rough chopped cabbage and carrots along with the potatoes. It also needs enough time in the cast iron skillet to get some good brown crunchy bits. A few 6-minute eggs (see Wylie Dufresne’s method around the 4:10 minute mark here), and a variation on Suzanne Goin’s parsley sauce from Sunday Suppers at Lucques pulls it all together. The parsley sauce is bright and acidic (parsley, onions, coarse mustard, cider vinegar, olive oil, and a little anchovy paste) and is great with the corned beef.

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Stout Week


A nice finish to what I’ve decided now to call Stout Week. It was an unofficial celebration that started on St. Patrick’s Day with a McGovern’s Oatmeal Stout (Belfast Bay, Maine), a beer that was impressively identified by my friend Jess by a postage stamp-sized corner of a label from this picture on Monday.

mcgoverns stout label SMALL

I figured last weekend that I’d like to have some stout on hand for St. Pat’s to have with the corned beef, and I got a mix of old favorites and new ones to try. (Yes, I know I passed right over the Irish stouts. I originally went looking for some that were on this list of 10 Best American Stouts, but came home with a totally different mix.)

In this week’s unscientific study, I enjoyed the following:
Belfast Bay, McGovern’s Oatmeal Stout
Shipyard Blue Fin Stout
Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout
Sierra Nevada Stout
Eric’s wedding beer Old Barley and Chain Stout (homebrew, version 2.0?)
Breckenridge Brewery Oatmeal Stout
Keegan Ales Mother’s Milk Stout

My favorites were the McGovern’s, Eric’s Old Barley and Chain (good luck finding this one; can sometimes be bartered for with rye bread and corned beef, or shared when visiting the garage on brew day), and Keegan’s Mother’s Milk.

Old favorites of mine that I’d like to include for next time are some heavy hitters: Founder’s Breakfast Stout, Young’s Oatmeal Stout, and Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout. Any other recommendations?

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St. Patrick’s Day Reuben

Today’s mission accomplished:


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Lamb Sausage with Liver – Burns Night 2014


Some hae meat and canna eat, 
   And some wad eat that want it; 
But we hae meat, and we can eat, 
   And sae the Lord be thankit.

– Robert Burns

IMG_1235 The business of school, home, and grad work have conspired to delay this post 10 days or so, and I figured I should probably get some pictures and a recipe up here to document our first Burns Night Dinner. We made it about as traditional as we could, with everything save the sheep’s stomach (which is near impossible to get, apparently) and the full Address to a Haggis. We did have a haggis-inspired lamb sausage with liver and oats, cockaleekie soup, Cullen skink (smoked fish chowder, thanks to Josh), neeps and tatties, 80 shilling ale (brewed with smoked barley), several drams of Glenmorangie, and kilts (thanks to Eric, our resident brewer and outfitter of kilts). We started things off with the Selkirk Grace, and finished the evening with Grandma’s shortbread. It was a terrific afternoon-into-evening, and a tradition I think we all are excited to continue.

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Lamb Sausage with Liver and Oats

I hesitate to call this haggis sausage, since I’m sure the purists would be up in arms, but it’s got everything except for the lamb heart, which we’ll get next year, and the stomach to case it all in. I wonder if the sheep’s stomach is overrated. Next year we’ll be a little more on the ball so that we can get the lamb heart and liver though. I think I’d still use some shoulder, and maybe a shade less beef fat. This was a fine sausage.

  • 2 lb lamb shoulder
  • 1/2 lb lamb or calves liver
  • 1 lb beef fat
  • 1/2 lb oats, toasted
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 21 g kosher salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1T of garam masala spice
  • a good splash or two of Scotch
  • 1/2 c ice water
  • 5-6 feet hog casings

Sear the liver in a medium-hot pan until each side has some good brown bits. Set aside in a bowl to cool, and deglaze the pan with a splash of Scotch. Cube the lamb and fat, add the liver and the pan juices, salt and spices, onions, garlic, and oats, and chill overnight, or at least for a few hours. About an hour before you’re going to grind, put the meat mixture and your grinding plates and blades into the freezer. Grind through the small die into a mixing bowl set in ice water. Add another good glug of Scotch and the 1/2 cup of ice water, and mix with the paddle attachment of a standing mixer on medium speed for a minute or two. This will help it all stick together. Haggis isn’t as dense sausage as your standard Italian links or bratwurst, but I thought a little coherence here would be good.

Stuff into hog casings (or something larger if you have it). Twist into links. Brown well (but slowly) in a skillet, and let them finish in the oven while you mash the turnips and potatoes. Note: I used regular rolled oats here because I knew these sausages weren’t in for a 3-hour simmer. If you’re going to stuff this into a beef bung, or if you manage to procure a stomach, then everything will benefit from the longer cooking time, and pin or steel cut oats would be best (from everything I read).

photo (5)

This was the tester patty that we fried up before casing. We also ended up with a little more than 1/2 lb of uncased sausage that made for a few awesome breakfasts following Burns Night. Haggis patty with sunny-side-up egg? I think so.

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Pickle-brined Chicken

Nothing revolutionary here, but this process made for some great roasted chicken thighs. I didn’t have any buttermilk on hand, so I mixed up a little pickle brine with milk and hot sauce.

After soaking overnight, dredge in seasoned flour, and then roast in a 400 degree oven on a sheet pan, flipping the thighs over halfway through. The skin crisped up nicely, and was as good for lunch the next day as it was originally for dinner.


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Adventures in Cultured Dairy

So, here begins the experimentation. I’d never made butter before today. Apparently many people made it once in elementary school, shaking heavy cream in a Ball jar until it separates. (Is that all it is? because that sounds like it would take forever.) I missed out on that activity, but let me tell you, using a food processor has got to be MUCH faster.


This really couldn’t be much simpler. Put heavy cream into processor, whip, keep going.

Inspired by the cultured dairy section in Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot’s terrific new book, Maximum Flavor, I figured I’d give it a shot. First step: make butter, then culture the buttermilk and think about eventually making crime fraiche, sour cream, or ricotta. It wouldn’t be fair to say that my kids helped on this one, although they did watch along with me as the cream whipped (which we tasted) and then deflated, changing slowly but surely, and then breaking.


Buttermilk, butter.

I recombined these in the quart jar and plan to let them sit in the fridge for 48 hours or so before straining and kneading. The taste is already pretty remarkable. I’m curious to see how it develops.

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Eggs, whiskey, and science: Aged Eggnog


Breakfast of champions?

I Just started a batch of 3-week eggnog to have on hand for Christmas festivities later this month. This particular recipe was inspired by a combination of factors: Ruhlman has been talking up his aged eggnog for years now, and it’s one of those things I’ve been meaning to try since he first mentioned it; Alton has a good recipe with a little bit of history, hailing eggnog as “our first health drink” and “patriotic duty,” (patriotic!); and Science Friday ran a story last year about the microbiology department at Rockefeller University. Not only have they been been making a pretty potent batch for the last 40 years or so, but they also ran a test to see if the booze would actually kill any bacteria that might be present in the raw eggs. And it does. Go science! Streak-plated cultures from an inoculated batch (actually spiked with Salmonella — they are microbiologists, you know) right after mixing result in a veritable field of bacteria. They tested the plates again each week for 3 weeks, and each time there were fewer bacteria. 3 weeks does it. Check out the video below. Those guys know how to throw a good holiday party.

I trust the microbiologists. I also trust Alton, who says that as long as your mix contains about 20% alcohol then it should fine. Ruhlman’s happens to be the most potent recipe of the group, so he’s in the clear as far as the booze and the bugs go. I picked a happy medium between the two of them, just a shade stronger than the microbiologists. Apparently it mellows out over the month. We’ll see how it goes. Cheers!


Aged Eggnog 12-1-13

  • 1 dozen egg yolks
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 750 mL (24 oz) bourbon
  • 1/2 c (4 oz) dark rum
  • 1/2 c (4 oz) cognac
  • 1 qt whole milk
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • grated nutmeg to taste
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